I recently was speaking to a group of Master of Science in Accountancy students at Notre Dame about their career search – they all had stellar undergrad pedigrees, they were all enrolled in a top-tier accounting program; in other words, they were all strong candidates for any accounting opening at any company.
During our discussions, I highlighted that each person in the room had a strong background academically, all had Notre Dame Accounting on their resume, I challenged them to think about what set them apart from their classmates. I asked the students to think of their personal brand, who are you and what separates you from the crowd. It was a shock to most, maybe all of them, to think that having a Notre Dame MS Accounting degree did not separate them from the crowd nor guarantee a job. When we looked around the room, students began to realize there were 95 other candidates who had the same degree and were applying for the same job. It dawned on them that each person had to discover what unique gifts they could offer an employer that would make themselves memorable and valued to the hiring manager, they needed a Personal Brand.
Some readers might be doubting the seriousness of Personal Branding – is this is a new fad or buzzword in career management circles? No, it is a concept that has been around for years. Tom Peters wrote a provocative article in Fast Company magazine entitled “The Brand Called You” (8/31/97). One can tell the article is 13 years old as it revels in the “killer app” called email and highlights Arthur Anderson for its company branding (say what you will about the Enron disaster, Anderson was in step with Nike with regards to branding). Still, his message is timeless, you are the CEO of Me, Inc. and it is crucial for you to identify what separates you from the pack, how will you communicate this message and increase your “brand” influence.
The concept of personal branding is even more important today than it was thirteen years ago. With massive job boards, online resume submission, and high unemployment, it is more difficult each day to get noticed. Recently, a Boeing HR manager mentioned they had over 1500 applications for an opening. In May 2009, a recruiter in the PR industry relayed that she received over 500 resumes for an entry-level posting. What this information means is that job seekers need to think about how they can stand out from the pile by communicating a clear message of who they are and what they can offer a company.
Don’t be just a staff/employee/worker – be the CEO of Me, Inc.